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Thank you Madame Chair, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
We have been witnessing a new dynamic in recent weeks starting on 22 February with massive, nation-wide demonstrations in Algeria. These were prompted by the announcement that incumbent President [of Algeria, Abdelaziz] Bouteflika would run for a fifth mandate in the Presidential election initially set for 18 April. Since then, demonstrations have continued virtually every day, and have grown in size. Besides opposing a new mandate for President [of Algeria, Abdelaziz] Bouteflika, the protestors are demanding a broader reform of Algeria's political system. Notwithstanding their massive scale, the demonstrations have been largely peaceful and the response by the security services has been very measured.
Official communication from the government in recent weeks, following the nomination of a new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, stresses the necessity to consult and listen to the people with a view to introducing significant reforms.
Algeria is a key partner for the European Union. We have important political, economic and people-to-people interests in the country and in the region, where Algeria is a stabilizing factor. Our bilateral relations have progressed positively in recent years and we expect that to continue. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini met Minister of State [of Algeria, Ramtane] Lamamra in Brussels on 7 March to discuss the situation in the country, before his subsequent appointment as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. I also had the opportunity to talk to him.
The demonstrations have so far been peaceful, and the response by security services has been measured. This is highly commendable and restraint should continue.
As you all know, the situation is currently very fluid. We have been following today's developments very closely. It is key now that there should be a positive response to the people's aspirations: their call for reform of governance, for greater political openness, and for more economic and social opportunities, especially for the young. Any process has to be transparent and include all sections of Algerian society.
During this period, it is important to remember that it is for the Algerians to decide for themselves, and among themselves, how to make this transition happen. On the EU side, we should encourage a free, fair and inclusive election of Algeria's next president, to be organised within a reasonable timeframe. The EU is ready to support the election with technical expertise and will consider fielding an Electoral Observation Mission, of course, if Algeria requests this and if the conditions of the process are met. I count on Parliament's support in this regard.
We should also support the call for the broader reform and transition process. A National Conference could be the platform for discussing this, as long as it is genuinely inclusive, representative and designed to ensure political legitimacy. It is important to make quick progress on this. Citizens' initiatives for a peaceful solution are also circulating, and we understand there is willingness on both sides to define a common way forward. We hope that a consensus crystallises around a roadmap for the transition, as well as on who should be in charge of carrying it out. Whatever process is followed, it must be one that is accepted by Algerians as expressing their will. And, as we have stated publicly, the European Union stands ready to accompany Algeria in this process if the Algerians request it.
The EU should continue to support Algeria in its socio-economic reforms, and the shaping of perspectives that match the desires and ambitions of the population, especially the young.
All this will be done in full respect of Algeria’s sovereignty and in a spirit of partnership as it is defined in our Neighbourhood Policy concepts. The events over the past four weeks have tested political maturity in Algeria and we count on all concerned to face up to the call for change and to bring a peaceful transition to fruition.
Link to the opening remarks: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-170008
Thank you Mr President.
We will continue to monitor all developments in Algeria, a key partner to our South. As I said, we hope that the situation remains peaceful, and we believe it is vital that the legitimate aspirations of the Algerian people are addressed. At the same time, I believe we can agree that the best we can do right now is not to interfere in an internal process.
We should be ready to provide support to the consensus and the ensuing process when the moment is ripe, while following closely the various steps on the way and remembering it is for the Algerians to decide for themselves and among themselves how to make this transition happen.
Allow me therefore to express my appreciation for your attention and support in giving this important file the considerate approach it deserves and to stay vigilant on this subject.
Thank you very much.
Link to the closing remarks: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-170011